Tyler Perry‘s Too Close to Home premieres tonight on TLC, but some are questioning if Perry’s latest production hits anywhere close to his home demographic. That’s because according to the promotional material, Too Close To Home features an all-White cast.
That’s notable because Perry put himself on the map with unapologetically Black plays, movies, and television shows that were championed for filling the void of Black stories in mainstream media.
Love or hate the characters and storylines Perry uses to reflect the Black experience in his work, it’s hard not to salute his dedication to employing predominantly Black casts and crews in an industry that’s produced two straight years of #OscarsSoWhite backlash.
But after nearly a decade of building a Black brand centered around his brash matriarch Madea, has Perry not earned the right to mix up the ingredients in his signature recipe? For the record, he’ll still be delivering a Madea Halloween film later in the year.
Perry clapped back at critics of Too Close To Home‘s Caucasian cast on The Tom Joyner Morning Show, saying, “I’m so sick of folks asking me why I have a show full of White folks. What the hell? Nobody asked Norman Lear why he wrote for Black people all those years.”
Lear became an American idol in the 1970s for creating sitcoms that resonated with both White and Black audiences.
All In The Family, Good Times, The Jeffersons, and Sanford and Son were bona fide hits across all demographics, thanks to humor and drama that didn’t shy away from addressing the stereotypes and experiences that divide audiences.
But will Perry have the same freedom to explore White stereotypes and tropes that Lear had on Good Times and The Jeffersons?
Probably not, but that does not mean he doesn’t have every right to try.
We already let Nelly drop a country song with Tim McGraw. And even Perry’s sworn enemy Spike Lee made 25th Hour, whose only notable Black roles went to the lovely Rosario Dawson, the late Patrice O’Neal, and The Wire‘s Isiah “Sheeeeeit” Whitlock Jr.
We can question Perry’s motives for going White, but whether it’s money or the pure creative ambition, can we just be happy that he won’t be waving a .22 pistol in a wig and a dress this time around?
However you feel about Madea, Perry’s put in so much work for Black filmmakers and audiences throughout his career that the least he deserves is the freedom to try a White passion project.
Ultimately, as Perry told TMZ, “people are people.” He went on to explain, “If you write a story about a woman and a man who (are) having pain and issues and trying to get over things, it’s the same for a Black person as a White person or anyone else… People need to let all that go.”
So Mr. Perry, please ignore the critics (who probably didn’t even support your all-Black productions) and focus on cooking up the best steam-broiled lilly White programming you can. Just don’t forget to add some of that famous Madea seasoning for the soul.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty